In this 2-post series we outline the various professional services – some free and some paid for – that cover your entire customer experience when you decide to scale your multichannel ecommerce business.
Companies usually divide their offerings into products and services. Although technology and automation have blurred the lines in ecommerce, generally a product is a thing and a service is a person, in the form of their time and accumulated experience. That said, companies tend to package up their services into ‘products’ to make it easier for their customers to choose what they need from a menu.
When it comes to ecommerce, our sellers tend to find that it’s the addition of a second online channel – effectively the minimum requirement to call yourself multichannel – that becomes the tipping point for investing in a platform to centralise your trading environment, so that you have one place to go for managing your listings, stock levels, orders, customers and reporting. Of course, you can buy just the platform, the product if you like, and its associated modules, tools, feeds and integrations, and do it all yourself. In the vast majority of cases, though, it’s the accompanying services that help you get the most out of the product, and the most out of your time. Product + service = scale, as you might say in maths terms.
What services are out there to help ecommerce sellers invest in a platform for growth, or re-platform to take their business to the next level? Here are the first 5 of 12 of them, roughly arranged in the order you might need them in your buying and in ‘life’ process. We’ll cover the other 7 in the next post. They’re all complementary to the base product, and in some cases you can get them for free as part of the product, or complimentary if you like.
This is the one service you’re most likely to get for free. The better platform providers will do more listening than selling. They’ll uncover your issues and requirements, challenge you on some of your assumptions and recommend the best solution fitting your circumstances. This is often done as part of the so-called ‘consultative’ sales process for a complex purchase, to make sure that providers understand what you need and have what you need. They’ll also walk you through the buying process, which is useful if you haven’t bought this kind of thing before. The cheaper and less comprehensive the solution, the more likely you’ll have to do the all-important needs analysis yourself.
While you can enlist the services of strategy consultants to negotiate every milestone in your business, you can also pay for their help from the get go. Consultants are often independent, and ‘platform-agnostic’ so the chances are you’ll get recommendations that are in your best interest. Many are not, however, so you may well end up with recommendations for – guess what – products and services they’re affiliated with, regardless of whether they choose to disclose their ties. Understanding the relationship between ‘recommender’ and ‘recommended’ is useful.
Data flows from your suppliers, your channels, from the transactions with your customers, the systems you integrate with and the third parties who deliver your products. Data is present in all parts of your business, and in all services too, so it’s important to establish what insights you want from your data, and how you’re get those insights. Before you invest in a solution, it’s important to establish your data strategy, what information you will collect, what you will send, and how you will surface information to make decisions on your business. Your data intel service can come in the form of custom expertise, or software that automates the processes, or a combination of the two.
How you present your products is a very large part of your sales success. Creative design services can come up with a name and ‘identity’ for your brands, and create shop fronts to optimise your presence on your web site(s) and marketplaces. You can enlist this expertise before you launch, and it also makes sense to get periodic refreshes to make sure you’re taking advantage of the latest store features and functions, as well as the modern look for showcasing your products. You generally buy these services as discrete, well-defined projects.
Before your buyers can see your store and products, you have to get them there in the first place. Digital marketing is the range of screen-based advertising tools at your disposal, covering both the content – your words and pictures – and the delivery mechanisms for the content, including email, web, social media, natural search and paid search and shopping. Like many of the other services, this is something you’ll want to get done prior to launch, tweak after launch and then refresh on a regular basis. It’s a specialist set of skills that many sellers contract out, but many also choose to master this area themselves, as it’s so closely tied to their success.
In the next post we’ll cover the other 7 services, including a ‘super service’ that can cover some or all of the services you can invest in alongside your platform. In the meantime, you can read about Volo’s professional services here, or you can contact us here to talk things over.